• Webinar recorded on Tue 19th April, 2016
  • 0 hours 53 mins
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Rabbit Airways:Keeping Them Breathing by Jo Hinde. Rabbit anaesthetics have a bad reputation for being difficult, stressful and going wrong however this doesn’t have to be the case. This presentation will summarise some top tips for a smoother GA and will look closer at airway management techniques including positioning, intubation and monitoring options. It will also discuss the holistic approach to anaesthesia which involves looking deeper into the patient’s health and husbandry directly before and after anaesthesia.

Holistic Anaesthesia

As always, you want your patient to be in the best health possible before undertaking a general anaesthetic. This is not always possible for emergency operations however the most common rabbit surgeries are for routine neutering. In these cases it is easy to ensure your patient is fit and well. Take the time to discuss the current husbandry and diet provided by the owners. Ideally this should be done at a pre op appointment at least 2 weeks before the planned operation date. This then allows time for small adjustments to be made by the owner to ensure the rabbit is at optimal health. Also discuss the patient s post op requirements so the owner has time to amend the enclosure if needed and purchase any different bedding or food that may be recommended. This type of appointment is perfectly suited for nurses to carry out.

Airway Options, Anaesthesia and Monitoring

Anaesthetic drug protocols will not be discussed as these are to be decided by the veterinary surgeon performing the operation, however I recommend that the most up to date protocols are used as listed in the Textbook of Rabbit Medicine (M. Varga 2014). There are currently 3 main airway options: Face mask, Endo-Tracheal tube and Supraglotic Airway Device (V-Gel). Each one has pro’s and cons’ that will be discussed and examples of correct placement will be shown. It is vital that rabbits are closely monitored during all aspects of their anaesthetic from pre-med right through to approx 1hr post op. A range of monitoring techniques will be discussed and the importance of capnography and IPPV explained.


Stasis is not a normal part of rabbit anaesthetics and can be avoided by having good protocols in place. It’s imperative that your patient is eating and passing faeces before it is discharged back to the owners and adequate pain relief is a vital part of the anaesthetic process. It is advisable that all rabbits are syringe fed once sufficiently recovered if they are not eating for themselves after an hour of standing. Providing the right selection of foods can really make a difference and you need to know what the rabbit usually eats and what its favourite foods are. At the pre op appointment you can instruct your owners to bring a lunchbox with them on the day of the operation for the rabbit’s recovery. All rabbits should be discharged with at least 3 days of pain relief and owners should be advised on how to monitor their pet for signs of pain.

Jo has worked in the veterinary industry since 2007 and has a special interest in rabbits. She currently works as a locum RVN and is also an Outreach Officer for the RWAF. She is keen to promote rabbit welfare and provides lectures to the veterinary profession, students, schools and the general public on a wide range of rabbit care. In 2014 she was chosen as the Blue Cross Veterinary Nurse of the Year and nominated for the Petplan Veterinary Nurse of the Year in 2015. In 2016 she is a finalist for the CEVA Animal Welfare Awards and a nominee for the Petplan Veterinary Nurse of the Year and Volunteer of the Year awards.

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